Charlie Stross Discovers that The WSJ has been Teaching to the Test

And, therefore, ripping off its (at least European) advertisers:

The Guardian has just broken a new story about News International: Wall Street Journal circulation scam claims senior Murdoch executive: Andrew Langhoff resigns as European publishing chief after exposure of secret channels of cash to help boost sales figures.

To quote a little bit of the extensive — and hair-raising — article:

One of Rupert Murdoch’s most senior European executives has resigned following Guardian inquiries about a circulation scam at News Corporation’s flagship newspaper, the Wall Street Journal.

The Guardian found evidence that the Journal had been channelling money through European companies in order to secretly buy thousands of copies of its own paper at a knock-down rate, misleading readers and advertisers about the Journal’s true circulation.

Misleading is British-newspaper-speak for “defrauding.” As Charlie explains:

[A]udited circulation figures are the bedrock on which advertising revenue is based — the higher the ABC figures, the more the publisher can charge advertisers per inch of paper. Note that for many newspapers or periodicals, advertising accounts for up to 80-90% of revenue; you, the reader, are merely there as a draw for the real customers, the advertisers, who will pay more for pages that are seen by more eyeballs.

This kind of circulation ramping looks like bare-faced fraud.

If that’s been happening in the U.S. as well, Charlie’s expectations may come true:

And while the large corporate advertisers might be willing to put up with dirty tricks aimed at the readers, this is something else. (I expect a collapse in NewsCo’s advertising revenue, not to mention an imminent FBI investigation …)

(cross-posted from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo)